In 1881 an important archaeological site was accidentally discovered in a small town called Rabat and situated outside the gates of the old capital of Malta, Mdina. The discovery revealed outstanding Roman remains from the ancient city of Melite with some ruins, what must have been a sumptuous Roman house belonging to the first century BC.
The ruins were turned into a museum called The Domvs Romana. The museum is filled with fine artefacts that once belonged to a Roman family.
One important part of the domestic belongings was undoubtedly clothes the Romans wore. It is absolutely worth to have a closer look at the wardrobe of a pater familias (the father) and matrona (a woman). Those silhouettes have not still lost their actuality nowadays. Designers continue to “borrow” some elements for their contemporary creations.
The pre-eminent dress of the Romans, which also distinguished them from the Greeks and Barbarians, was the toga.
In the earliest years of Rome the garment was worn by both men and women and later it became a male wardrobe piece.
The toga appears to be a semicircular made originally of wool in its natural yellowish hue. Later the Romans started dyeing and bleaching the textile. In times of mourning the toga was worn black.
Priests and magistrates wore the toga pretexta, or toga edged with a purple border, called pretexta.
The tunic was introduced to the Romans a while later after the toga and was regarded as a species of luxury.
It was worn by both men and women, but for men the garment reached only half way down to the thigh; longer tunics being regarded as a mark of effeminacy and left to women and to eastern nations.
The Roman ladies wore tunic as an under-garment – reaching down to the feet. Over it a Roman woman would wear a coloured stolae together with a palla (large shawl used as an outerwear) adopted from the Greeks’ peplum, which allowed a variety of modifications. The stolae was cut exactly like the tunic but with sleeves covering the upper arm. Everything was kept in place by pins, fibulae and simple belts. In the cooler months the pallas could be replaced by a woollen cloak.
Nevertheless, children wore smaller versions of the clothes worn by their parents, which constituted a certain custom which at least in Europe was kept almost till the end of the 19th Century.
Thus, the Romans with some Greek and Etrurians influences, created a shapeless extravagance of their attire, layering the ground for the simplicity of elegance by using simple clean cuts and layers.